In an interview, President Donald Trump claimed that a January New York Times article proved his false claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower and suggested that the newspaper later changed the article's headline to remove the word “wiretap.” Both claims about the article come from fringe and right-wing media. In fact, the Times article does not prove Trump’s claim, and its headline was never altered.
Trump Claims NY Times Printed A Story Showing Trump Aides Were Wiretapped But That The Paper Took Out “Wiretap” From Headline
Trump: NY Times “Had A Front-Page Story” Showing “Wiretapping,” And The Times “Dropped The Headline” Because “They Probably Didn’t Like It.” In an interview with Time magazine, President Donald Trump defended his claim that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower by saying, “The New York Times had a front-page story, which they actually reduced, they took it, they took it the word wiretapping out of the title, but its first story in the front page of the paper was wiretapping.” He suggested that “they then dropped that headline and they used another headline without the word wiretap” because “they probably didn’t like” the original headline. From the March 22 interview (emphasis original):
So you don’t feel like Comey’s testimony in any way takes away from the credibility of the tweets you put out, even with the quotes?
No, I have, look. I have articles saying it happened. But you have to take a look at what they, they just went out at a news conference. Devin Nunes had a news conference. I mean I don’t know, I was unable to see it, because I am at meetings, but they just had a news conference talking about surveillance. Now again, it is in quotes. That means surveillance and various other things. And the New York Times had a front-page story, which they actually reduced, they took it, they took it the word wiretapping out of the title, but its first story in the front page of the paper was wiretapping. And a lot of information has just been learned, and a lot of information may be learned over the next coming period of time. We will see what happens. Look. I predicted a lot of things that took a little of bit of time. Here, headline, for the front page of the New York Times, “Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides.” That’s a headline. Now they then dropped that headline, I never saw this until this morning. They then dropped that headline, and they used another headline without the word wiretap, but they did mean wiretap. Wiretapped data used in inquiry. Then changed after that, they probably didn’t like it. And they changed the title. They took the wiretap word out.
If you go back to Comey testifying that he and the Justice Department have no information to back up your tweet, the head of the NSA testifying that there is no information to back up your tweet, or the claim made by Judge Napolitano…
On front page of the New York Times, OK? It’s in the title of the front page. And I would like you to officially—I know you are going to write a bad article because you always do—[mention] wiretap data used in inquiry of Trump aides. OK. Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aids. Ok? Can you possibly put that down? Front page, January 20th. Now in their second editions, they took it all down under the internet. They took that out. Ok? [Time, 3/23/17]
Trump Previously Invoked The Times Article To Defend His Wiretap Claim. In a March 15 interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, Trump claimed that “a January 20 New York Times article” mentioned “wiretapping”:
Asked by Fox News host Tucker Carlson Wednesday night how he learned of the alleged surveillance, Trump said, “Well, I’ve been reading about things. I read in, I think it was a January 20 New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article. I think they used that exact term.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/15/17; The Washington Post, 3/17/17]
Both Claims Echo Right-Wing Media And Fringe Media
Mark Levin Cited Times Article For Obama Wiretap Claim Trump Later Invoked. Breitbart.com wrote that radio host Mark Levin on March 2 “outline[d] the known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump,” which included noting a Times article “on the eve of Inauguration Day” showing “several agencies ... monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties.” From the March 3 article (boldface original):
Radio host Mark Levin used his Thursday evening show to outline the known steps taken by President Barack Obama’s administration in its last months to undermine Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, his new administration.
Drawing on sources including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Levin described the case against Obama so far, based on what is already publicly known. The following is an expanded version of that case, including events that Levin did not mention specifically but are important to the overall timeline.
7. January: Times report. The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties. Other news outlets also report the exisentence (sic) of “a multiagency working group to coordinate investigations across the government,” though it is unclear how they found out, since the investigations would have been secret and involved classified information. [Breitbart.com, 3/3/17; Media Matters, 3/6/17]
Gateway Pundit: Times “Reporting There Is No Evidence” Of Wiretap Claim “Two Months” After Its Article. Pointing to the Times article, The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft wrote on March 6 that the Times was “reporting there is no evidence of a wiretap” “two months” after the “front page of The New York Times way back on January 20, 2017” included the headline “Wiretapped Data Used In Inquiry Of Trump Aides.” Hoft added, “No wonder nobody trusts them!” [The Gateway Pundit, 3/6/17]
Infowars: Times “Asserted” Trump Had “‘No Evidence’” For Wiretap Claim, But The Paper Had “Already Admitted Wiretaps Were Used Against The Trump Campaign.” Infowars wrote that the Times “asserted President Trump had ‘no evidence’ for” his wiretap claim, but that the paper had “already admitted wiretaps were used against the Trump campaign” in an “article published on Inauguration Day.” From the March 6 article:
The New York Times already admitted wiretaps were used against the Trump campaign, despite now claiming there’s “no evidence” of the wiretapping accusations President Trump lodged against the former Obama administration on Saturday. A New York Times article published on Inauguration Day specifically referenced “Wiretaps” in its headline, though it didn’t specifically mention that Trump himself, or Trump Tower was bugged.
Despite previously reporting on the “wiretaps,” the New York Times on Saturday asserted President Trump had “no evidence” for accusing his predecessor of wiretapping his incoming administration’s communications. [Infowars, 3/6/17]
National Review’s Andrew McCarthy Accused Times Of Changing Article’s Headline After Trump Made His Wiretapping Claim. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy wrote that the Times’ article had “suddenly, quietly been given a new headline” after Trump made his wiretap claim in order to cover for Obama. The same day, he apologized for the error. From the March 9 article (emphasis original):
On January 20, when the paper was trying to promote the “government investigating Trump–Russia conspiracy to steal the election” narrative, here’s the headline that appeared on the big story: “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”
But now that the media have been called on this, now that the Obama administration has been called on investigating the Trump campaign, what happens?
Have you checked the Times’s January 20 story lately?
Turns out the story has suddenly, quietly been given a new headline. No longer is it “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.” Instead, readers are now told, “Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry into Trump Associates.”
Why would the Times change its headline in this manner, weeks after the fact?
Because, during the four months when the media-Democrat complex wanted you to believe there was a Trump–Putin conspiracy to hack the election, they needed you to believe that the Justice Department was targeting Trump associates for surveillance because they were Russian agents.
Now that they don’t want you to believe there was an investigation — because that would be an Obama abuse of power — they want to convince you that Trump associates were never targeted for surveillance. [National Review, 3/9/17, 3/9/17]
The Times Article Does Not Back Up Trump’s Wiretap Lie, Nor Was Its Headline Changed
NY Times: “At No Point Was Either Headline Altered.” The New York Times directly debunked Trump’s claim that the newspaper altered its headline on a story about the the FBI’s probe into possible connections between Russian officials and Trump confidants. The online version and the print version of the story had “in fact two different headlines,” the paper noted, “which is typical,” but proved to readers that “at no point was either headline altered.” From the March 23 article:
Mr. [President Donald] Trump was referring to an article published online on Jan. 19 and in print on Jan. 20 that disclosed that American law enforcement and intelligence agencies were examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of Mr. Trump.
There were in fact two different headlines on the online and print versions of the article, which is typical. At no point was either headline altered.
Times headlines often differ in print and online, in part because of variations in presentation and in part because of space. This disparity is always noted at the end of the web version and has been noted since the story was first published in print on Jan. 20. [The New York Times, 3/23/17]
Wash. Post: Trump’s Claim About Times Article Is A “Gross Misreading” Of The Piece. The Washington Post called out Trump’s “gross misreading” of the Times article, noting that the piece did not say “that Obama ‘ordered’ a wiretapping of candidate Trump or that any such surveillance took place at Trump Tower in New York”; instead, it “speaks to a broader and more diffuse FBI investigation of possible links between unnamed Russian officials and Trump associates.” From the March 17 article (emphasis original):
The story in question was published on the paper’s front page on Jan. 20 — the day Trump was inaugurated — under the headline, “Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides.”
So, in fact, the word “wiretapped” appears. But at no point does the article, produced under the bylines of four reporters, make the assertion that Obama “ordered” a wiretapping of candidate Trump or that any such surveillance took place at Trump Tower in New York.
Instead, the Times story speaks to a broader and more diffuse FBI investigation of possible links between unnamed Russian officials and Trump associates. The article identified the associates under investigation as former campaign manager Paul Manafort and advisers Carter Page and Roger Stone.
The closest the story comes to President Obama is this vague assertion: “One official said intelligence reports based on some of the wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House.”
Thus, Trump’s reading of the story is a gross misreading of it. [The Washington Post, 3/17/17]
NY Times: “Far-Right Websites” Like Infowars “Erroneously” Claimed The Times “Reported That” Trump “Was Under Surveillance.” The Times noted that “several far-right websites, including Infowars … erroneously asserted that The Times and others had reported that the president was under surveillance.” The Times noted that Infowars even admitted that the January article “‘didn’t specifically mention that Trump himself, or Trump Tower, was bugged.’” From the March 13 article:
Still, several far-right websites, including Infowars, which traffics in conspiracy theories and whose eccentric operator, Alex Jones, has interviewed Mr. Trump, have erroneously asserted that The Times and others had reported that the president was under surveillance.
In a story dated March 6, Infowars cited a Jan. 19 article in The Times detailing how American law enforcement and intelligence agencies were examining intercepted communications as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and Trump associates.
“Flashback: NYT admits wiretaps used against Trump,” the headline read. The story noted that The Times “didn’t specifically mention that Trump himself, or Trump Tower, was bugged,” but the caveat has not stopped Mr. Trump’s supporters from insisting that The Times was a source for the president’s tweet. [The New York Times, 3/13/17]
Trump’s Wiretap Claim Has Been Debunked
Former Government Officials Have Debunked Trump’s Claim. Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper told NBC earlier this month that “for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.” A spokesperson for Obama said that “neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen.” [Media Matters, 3/6/17]
FBI Director James Comey: “No Information” To Back Up Trump’s Wiretap Claim. FBI Director James Comey testified in a House committee hearing on March 20 that he “has no information that supports” Trump’s wiretap claim. NBC News reported that Comey “did not say ... that no Trump associate was ever picked up by American surveillance.” From the March 20 article:
The FBI director also dealt the president's credibility a blow when he said he “has no information that supports” Trump's allegation from two weeks ago that President Obama ordered surveillance of his communications in Trump Tower during the campaign.
Only courts grant permission for electronic surveillance, Comey told lawmakers, and “no individual in the United States can direct electronic surveillance of anyone.”
Comey did not say, however, that no Trump associate was ever picked up by American surveillance. He declined to comment on anything related to surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the FBI to eavesdrop, with a court order, on people they suspect are agents of a foreign power. [NBC News, 3/20/17]